Biosecurity in pig farms across Europe

2017 | by PROHEALTH Consortium | Print Article

Biosecurity measures are of great importance to prevent or limit the risk of animals becoming infected with pathogens. Biosecurity is a term used to describe management measures for the prevention of pathogens entering a farm (external biosecurity) or the spreading of pathogens within the farm (internal biosecurity). Improving the level of biosecurity is considered to result in a limited introduction and spread of disease, resulting in reduced morbidity and mortality rates, making biosecurity a tool in disease eradication programs as well as in daily health management.

In the context of the PROHEALTH project, production diseases on pig and poultry farms are being studied at a European level. Specific research is conducted on the link between animal health and production on the one hand and biosecurity, housing and management on the other. e biosecurity has been scored in 8 different European countries (Table 1) for a total of 409 farms.


Biosecurity scoring tool

The scoring of biosecurity and management was carried out with the help of a web-based tool developed by Ghent University. e tool has previously been presented already in an earlier newsletter edition and a web link is available at the end of this article. e tool consists of three separate web-based questionnaires for broiler, laying hen and pig farms respectively. Each questionnaire covers several weighted categories (Table 2) and each category contains a set of questions with multiple answers. e answers to these questions are given a score (0–100), based on available information from scientific literature and expert opinion.

Results of biosecurity scoring in pig farms

The overall scores for external biosecurity were higher than the scores for internal biosecurity. The average scores for external and internal biosecurity on a sample of 409 pig farms in each of the countries (Table 2) were 72.6 (sd. 10.4 ) and 58.0 (sd. 15.7), respectively. e external biosecurity score was highest in the Danish sample of farms (Figure 1) (87.5, sd. 3.4 ) and lowest in Belgium and Poland. e farms sampled in both these countries scored only 65.5 (sd. 9.2 and 5.0 respectively). e internal biosecurity was highest in the Polish (80.4, sd. 7.9) and lowest in the Finish sample of farms (46.6, sd. 11.9).

The best scoring external biosecurity category in the overall sample was ‘purchase of animals and semen’ (87.3, sd. 11.7), whereas the best scoring internal biosecurity category was ‘disease management’ (74.1, sd. 20.5). e lowest scoring internal biosecurity category in the overall sample was ‘measures between compartments and the use of equipment’ (48.8, sd. 20.6).




For both fattening pig farms and sow farms, the external biosecurity category that had the highest average score was ‘purchase of animals and semen’ (87). In this category:

• 97% of the sow farms buy semen
    » 89% of these farms buy their semen from an AI station with a higher health status.

• 67% of the farms purchases breeding gilts
    » 90% always buy from the same supplier.
    »  79% use a quarantine compartment.
    »  61% keep the pigs >40 days in quarantine.

The external biosecurity category that had the lowest average score was ‘feed, water and equipment supply’ (58). In this category:

• Only 16% of the farms have a specific route for materials to enter the farm. 

• Only 24% of the farms conduct extra procedures for equipment supply like cleaning and disinfection or quarantine. The internal biosecurity category that had the highest score in pig farms was ‘disease management’ (71). In this category:

• 98% of the farms use a vaccination and treatment protocol.

• 92% of the farms regularly evaluate the health status of the farm (for example by blood sampling or follow up of the slaughterhouse results).

The lowest scoring internal biosecurity category in the overall sample was ‘measures between compartments and the use of equipment’ (49). In this category:

• Only on 24% of farms are clothing and shoes changed between different age groups.

• Only on 11% of the farms are the hands washed between different age groups.

In conclusion, considering the variation in scores between farms, there is still room for improvement in many pig farms. is study, together with the ongoing use of the web-based questionnaires can serve as an instrument to introduce and evaluate improvement strategies. The web-based scoring tools for pig farms can be accessed online: lime/index.php/999926/lang-en  


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